TANGENTIAL QUICHE WITH ASPARAGUS AND FENNEL

I would like to thank everyone who contacted me about my Mom’s passing.
It is a natural cycle of life to say goodbye to a parent, but it is still very painful.
Your kind words warmed my heart.

I’ve taken way too many liberties with recipe titles. Hummus without chickpeas? Yes, guilty of that one. Tortillas with no corn? Read my sentence. Rice-free risotto? Just take me. Today I add one more to the list. A quiche. But no crust. In fact, I’ve made a version almost exactly one year ago using sweet potato slices to cover the pie dish. We loved it so much that it’s hard to believe it took me so long to re-visit. This time I paired asparagus and fennel, with a small amount of cheese for good measure. Trickiest part of this recipe is getting the sweet potato slices to roast without shrinking too much and collapsing from the sides of the dish. Still, even if that happens, no major harm will be done. It is all going to be delicious.

SWEET POTATO CRUST QUICHE WITH ASPARAGUS AND FENNEL
(inspired by The Wimpy Vegetarian)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced thin
olive oil spray for potatoes
kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon total)
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup thinly sliced asparagus plus a few stalks left whole for decoration
1 large fennel bulb, diced
4 large eggs
2 egg whites
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese
nutmeg to taste

Heat oven to 400°F.

Coat a pie dish with the sliced potatoes, and spray a good amount of olive oil over the slices. Make sure to do a nice layer all around the edges coming up above the rim of the plate. Season lightly with salt. Place in the oven until the potatoes start to get some color, about 12 minutes. Reserve and lower the oven to 350 F.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the asparagus and fennel, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until just tender, about 8 minutes; set aside. Place the whole stalks in a microwave safe dish with a little water, microwave for 30 seconds. Reserve.

Whisk eggs, egg whites, half-and-half, milk, mustard powder,  half teaspoon salt and pepper in another large bowl. Spread the sautéed asparagus and fennel evenly on top of the sweet potato crust. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the vegetables. Pour the egg mixture over it all. Place the stalks of asparagus carefully on top. Grate fresh nutmeg across the top just before sliding into the oven.

Bake until quiche is set and crust is well browned, about 30 minutes, but check after 25 minutes in the oven. It should just jiggle lightly at the center.  Let cool to room temperature before cutting into wedges.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I love fennel but despise licorice. Go figure that one. My problem with fennel is that you buy this huge bulb and by the time you’re done prepping it, you are left with 1/4 cup at most of goodness. Oh, well. Maybe I don’t do a good job prepping it. But all instructions say to remove the tough outer layer. That “outer layer” is often so thick, a huge amount of fennel is gone once I remove it. Oh, well again. But I do love its flavor, both raw in salads, roasted, sautéed, it’s all great.  I am still learning my way around the sweet potato “crust.”  If you go to Susan’s site, you’ll  notice she opted for a hashbrown path to make the crust. That is definitely something to consider. At any rate, a quiche without the regular crust is so much lighter, and a lot quicker to prepare too. Obviously, you could omit the crust altogether, just coat the pie dish with a little butter or oil, add the veggies, pour the egg mixture and bake it. But it’s nice to have a bit of texture underneath.  Whatever you choose to do, this filling with asparagus and fennel, a touch of Gruyere (a favorite cheese of mine) is a winner.

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Fakebouleh

TWO YEARS AGO: Yellow Squash Soup

THREE YEARS AGO: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind and Coconut Glaze

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chicken-Apricot Skewers

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Asparagus Quiche

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SEVEN YEARS AGO: Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread

 

SAD TIMES

I really love this picture, taken many years ago. The last visit to my home country when Mom and Dad were still reasonably healthy and happy. Since that picture was taken, my Dad has left us in a shocking, unexpected departure. He probably never even realized he was leaving us. I was not able to arrive for the funeral, something that haunts me still. Now, on May 18th, one day after she and my Dad would celebrate 74 years of marriage, my Mom passed away. The worst nightmares for those who immigrate leaving behind their whole family, are moments like this. Am I going to arrive in time to say goodbye? But that’s such a small component of it. The whole guilty feeling of being away and unable to help your family, that is like a sleeping monster that wakes up and shows its sharp teeth in these incredibly sad times. However, I am trying to focus on the fact that I was able to see her while she was still conscious, and that she was so happy to see me… 

I am not religious. I am atheist and agnostic. Still I feel they are together now, not for some type of eternal after life, but because in my mind they are in the same spot. A bittersweet spot, in which only memories sooth the pain of their absence. 

I am grateful for everything they both did for me. And for the wonderful family they built together. 

Life goes on…

(comments are shutdown for this post)

 

BANANA BREAD WITH ESPRESSO GLAZE

There is no shortage of banana bread recipes in the universe. So, why would I share one more? Because it’s a great version, the icing takes it to unprecedented levels of deliciousness. The idea of pairing banana bread with coffee is superb, if you’ve never considered it, trust me, it has potential to become a classic. Like chocolate and coffee. I spotted this recipe back in January on the blog How Sweet It Is, hosted by Jessica. I made it not too long after her post was published, but as usual it is taking me a while to share with you. Two details make it special, a delicate layer of sugar sprinkled on top before baking, and of course, the glaze in all its caffeinated glory.

BANANA BREAD WITH ESPRESSO GLAZE
(from How Sweet It Is)

for the bread:
1 + 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
coarse sugar, for sprinkling (I used turbinad0)

for the espresso glaze:
1 + 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 ounces freshly brewed espresso
1 teaspoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, whisk well the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Add the milk and coconut oil, mixing until combined. Stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour batter in the greased loaf pan. Top with coarse sugar.

Bake for 75 to 85 minutes, or until the center is set. If the streusel begins to brown, tent the bread with aluminum foil. Remove the bread and let it cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Turn the bread out on a plate or cutting board and let it cool completely before glazing.

Whisk together the ingredients until a smooth, drippy glaze forms. If the mixture is too thin, you can thicken it by adding a little more powdered sugar. If it seems too thick, add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time, whisking to combine. Pour it over the banana bread and let it set for at least 30 minutes before slicing it.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The glaze… the glaze…  as Jessica wrote in her post, it’s all about the glaze. Or almost, because the banana bread itself is pretty delicious too, with the added sugary topping, which oddly enough does not make it overly sweet. But the glaze… am I repeating myself? The glaze, you must collect what puddles underneath the rack as you ice this beauty. Collect it, save it in a little bowl. No need to offer to guests, it won’t be fancy enough for that. Just keep it in the fridge, and when no one is looking, you go there with a tiny little spoon and scrape a little bit off. Then savor it, eyes closed. Seriously good stuff.

As usual, I took this batch to the department, and even a person who is not at all fond of coffee stopped to make enthusiastic compliments about the bread. Or cake. I am always confused, banana bread looks a lot more like cake in loaf form than bread. But, I won’t disturb the apple cart. Or banana cart. Or any cart, for that matter.

Make this bread, make this glaze, and go thank Jessica for it! 

ONE YEAR AGO: Slow-Cooker Carnitas & Paleo Planet Cookbook Review

TWO YEARS AGO: The Making of a Nobel Reception

THREE YEARS AGO: Fennel Soup with Almonds and Mint 

FOUR YEARS AGO: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farfalle with Zucchini and Ricotta

SIX YEARS AGO: Slow-baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Hoisin Explosion Chicken

 

 

ZUCCHINI FRITTATA WITH ROASTED TOMATOES AND GOAT CHEESE

Sometimes inspiration for a meal comes from unexpected sources. My friend Denise sent me a message with a photo of her dinner and four simple words: you must make this. She got it in a publication from her grocery store in England, showcasing their seasonal fresh ingredients. It joined zucchini with roast tomatoes and goat cheese, and looked great.  I ask you, what’s not to love? To make things even more interesting,  the zucchini receives the spiralizer treatment, although you could obviously do a coarse shred or a fine slicing. Don’t let the lack of a spiral cutter stop you. I used my Tarte Tatin pan, which sits patiently in the pantry waiting for the opportunity to shine. It is simply perfect for this type of recipe, so if you own one, open your horizons beyond the classic French dessert.

ZUCCHINI, ROASTED TOMATOES AND GOAT CHEESE FRITTATA
(adapted from Lakeland, UK)

12 cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
1 medium shallot, sliced
1 large zucchini, spiralized (use green or yellow, depending on availability)
5 eggs
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp herbes de Provence
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
125g goat cheese, crumbled
kalamata olives, pitted and halved, to taste

Heat the oven to 400 F (200 C).  Place the cherry tomatoes on a small roasting tray and drizzle over the olive oil. Cook for 10 minutes and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a round, non-stick 8-inch pan that can go in the oven,  brushing it over the entire base and up the sides to prevent the frittata from sticking. Cook the sliced shallot over a medium heat until softened. Add the spiralized courgette and cook for 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened.

Whisk the eggs in a Pyrex cup, add the herbs the Provence and season with salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the pan with the crumbled cheese, and top with the roasted tomatoes and black kalamata olives.

Cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes, until the frittata is beginning to set, but the top is still a little runny. Finish off under a hot oven until the top of the frittata acquires a golden color. Leave in the pan for 1-2 minutes before turning out onto a plate and cutting into wedges.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This goes for our regular rotation, for sure! I think I slightly overcooked the bottom of the frittata this time, but it did not compromise the flavor at all. From the original, I had three modifications. Used herbes de Provence instead of rosemary (a texture thing for me), added a little heavy cream to the egg mixture, and included kalamata olives as topping.  Because, as you might have heard years ago, I am a kalamata-cheerleader. We had a couple of very tiny slices as leftovers, and they were still quite amazing after a brief heating in our small electric oven, just to kill the cold from the fridge.

A very simple and flavorful dish, that you can modify to suit your taste with different veggies, herbs, and maybe adding some coconut milk instead of heavy cream. Yes, that could work quite well…

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AIR-FRIED CARROTS, TWO WAYS

No air-fryer? No worries. Both recipes can be prepared without it.

Lolita, the newest member of our gadget family, has been pretty busy these days. I had only one failure: air-frying broccoli, but even that was not a major catastrophic event. It was just a bit tricky to control the cooking of the crowns. Some bits of their external surface got overcooked and ended up with a harsh texture. Maybe a lower temperature would work better. At any rate, that recipe needs tweaking before I share with you. Moving to carrots, I offer two recipes that could not be simpler. First, air-fried carrots with a touch of honey. And then, a batch of shoestring fried carrots that were pretty much inhaled by the two of us. A bit of an argument happened when two lonely strands were left in the bowl. As often happens, the tropical charm spoke louder, and they both went into my belly. Oh, well. By the way, if you don’t have an air-fryer, follow the link to the recipe as shown in The Kitchen, that calls for deep-frying. It will be a bit more caloric, but still less so than the potato version. Plus, I bet kids will love them. One efficient way to deliver veggies to picky eaters.

AIR-FRIED CARROTS WITH HONEY
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 to 3 cups of carrots, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
tiny drizzle of soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Set air-fryer to 390 F.

Place the cut carrots in a bowl, add olive oil, honey and soy, toss gently to coat, trying to cover all surfaces with a bit of oil. Season carrots with salt and ground black pepper. Place in the basket of your air-fryer and cook for about 12 minutes, shaking the pan every once in a while.  Serve right away.

If you don’t have an air-fryer, roast in the oven at 420F until done.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve made these carrots three times. Compared to roasting them in the oven, I would say Lolita is faster, and also gives a different texture, quite pleasing. Leftovers were still very nice with a brief encounter with microwaves. Probably even better warmed up in a regular oven, but when lunch time comes, we opt for the simplest, fastest route to go back to work.

And now for a nice variation on shoestring potato fries. These are much lighter and surprisingly tasty!

 

SHOESTRING AIR-FRIED CARROTS
(adapted from Food TV The Kitchen)

1 bag (10 ounces) of julienned carrots (sold for cole-slaw)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle
1 teaspoon orange zest

In a medium bowl, mix the carrots with the olive oil, coating them lightly. Try to coat all pieces of carrots. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the carrots in the air-fryer set at 390F. Cook for 13 to 16 minutes, mixing them around every few minutes.

Remove when they start to get nicely brown, watch them closely because pieces might get too dark very quickly. Transfer them to a serving bowl, add orange zest, spray a little apple cider vinegar, adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed. Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I will warn you that the air-fryer (at least the model we have) will not hold more than one 10-ounce bag of shredded carrots. And they will shrink A LOT  during frying, as the water content of carrots is pretty high. At first you will see them shrinking, shrinking, getting kind of limp. Until all the water evaporates, they won’t brown.  So you will be left with a small amount of carrots, but perfect for two.  I would say that the main concern with the air-fryer is the amount of food it can handle. For a couple with no kids, it’s a very nice gadget. If you have kids around, you might have to cook food in batches. However, my niece in Brazil has three young kids and she still loves her fryer, so take my comment with a grain of salt.

The idea of using mini-spray bottles for vinegar is pure genius! It allows you to add just a little touch on the food. You can find those for very cheap in grocery stores, sold usually in a bag together with other types of bottles for traveling. I had no use for the spray one, it was hanging around my bathroom, neglected and lonely. Well, it’s now in my pantry, ready to play!

I’ve made these carrots twice already, first time I simply shook the basket every few minutes, and did not notice that the bottom layer was getting very dark and not moving around with my delicate shaking. Second time I used tongs to move the carrot pieces more efficiently. Worked like a charm.  Of course, if you don’t have an air-fryer, you can deep fry them and they will turn out delicious. I just hate dealing with the leftover oil, and find deep-fried food a bit heavy and hard to digest. Bottom line is, Lolita is working quite nicely for us!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Five Minutes in L.I.T (a tour of our laboratory!)

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SESAME AND POPPY SEED SOURDOUGH

It’s been a while since I baked a loaf of sourdough bread, Dan, my poor starter was definitely feeling neglected. This time, I decided to make something heavily loaded with seeds, but not big ones like pumpkin or sunflower. More delicate, seeds that would disperse nicely in the crumb. My starting point was a recipe from Josey Baker’s book Bread, but I added a few twists and modified the method slightly. Very pleased with the way it turned out.

SESAME AND POPPY SEED SOURDOUGH
(adapted from Josey Baker’s Bread)

for seed mixture:
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds (80 g)
1/4 cup poppy seeds (40 g)
1/2 cup hot water (120 g)

for dough:
240 g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
240 g water
300 g bread flour
75 g spelt flour
12 g salt (2 tsp)
all seed soaker

The day before, feed your starter and make sure it is all bubbly and ready to go. Prepare more than you need, so you can save some for future bread baking.

Prepare the seed soaker by mixing sesame and poppy seeds in a small bowl, adding the hot water on top. Mix and let it sit for one hour.

Prepare the dough by mixing all ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix until it’s a shaggy mass, leave it covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes.

Knead or fold the dough (ten times or so).  Cover and let it ferment for 30 minutes.

Knead or fold the dough again. Cover and let it sit for 30 minutes. Perform two more cycles of kneading 30 minutes apart.  Knead again and let it sit for 1 hour.

Shape the dough. Place it inside a banneton or other appropriate container, seam side up. Let it ferment for 2 hours. Place it in the fridge overnight, or around 12 hours.

Remove from the fridge one hour before baking, as your oven heats to 450 F.  Invert the dough on parchment paper, slash the top and bake for 45 minutes with initial steam (use your favorite method for that). I bake inside a Dutch oven, covered, and uncover after 30 minutes to brown the crust.

Allow it to completely cool on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I’ve been trying to work on more “artistic” slashing, inspired by greater bakers such as Elaine from foodbod. Evidently, I need to bake more often and practice. The thing is, slashing is so…. final!  Once you do it, that is it, there’s no going back to fix it a little, and the finality of it makes me nervous and a bit paralyzed. Maybe that’s the same problem I have with golf. Once you take that golf club back, it’s over, my friend. Either you get it or it is a disaster of dire consequences. Usually option two happens for me, particularly with the 5-iron. But I digress…  Independent of my slashing skills, the bread tasted exactly how I hoped. Sesame is such a nice flavor, and the seeds gave a pleasant extra chew to the bread.

Most important step in the recipe: make sure the dough is proofed enough. It needs the seal of approval of experienced eyes.

Yes, Mom. It looks perfect. And smells great too… Now, if only you would leave the premises for a few minutes….

I close the post with the mandatory crumb shot. This bread was particularly awesome with Brie cheese.

 

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LUSCIOUS CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

Perhaps you would think that the time for blogging about soup is pretty much over. But two facts conspired to bring it to our table. First, Phil got a little cold, and second, the weather turned pretty nasty. Forecast for Saturday and Sunday: chilly and full-time rain. Great combination for a rotten weekend. I will disclose to you that we do resort to Campbell’s canned soup sometimes. Yes, it’s not that great, but whenever we feel like we might be getting a bit sick, we buy a couple of cans and call them dinner. I squirt a little lemon juice over my bowl, freshly ground black pepper, and it does a reasonably ok job. But, this time I decided to take this classic soup medicine into my own hands. I would start by making my own chicken broth and use that to cook chicken thighs until  fork-tender. I won’t be humble. This was one spectacular chicken noodle soup. Even if for my bowl I used zoodles instead.

CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

A pressure cooker is preferred, but not mandatory

for the chicken stock:
2 pounds of chicken wings
2 carrots, cut in chunks
1 celery rib, cub in chunks
1/2 large onion
10 whole peppercorns
1 piece of ginger, about 1/2 inch
1 piece of kombu, about 3 inches long
1 bay leaf
7 cups of water

for the soup:
6 chicken thighs, skinless, with bone-in
4 medium carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
chicken broth, as much as needed
salt and pepper to taste
fresh lemon juice to taste
cooked noodles or zoodles

Start by making the chicken broth. Mix all ingredients in a large stockpot or pressure cooker. If using a pressure cooker, cook for 40 minutes under pressure, release steam, open the pan, strain the stock. If using a regular pan, simmer for at least one hour, preferable an hour and a half.

Return about 2 cups of broth and 1 cup of water to the pressure cooker, add the chicken pieces seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook under pressure for 20 minutes. Alternatively, simmer in a regular pan until the meat is very tender. Remove the pieces of chicken to a bowl, allow it to cool until you can handle it.

As the chicken cools, return the pressure cooker to the stove, add the carrots, celery, cook under pressure for 5 minutes, or in a regular pan until the veggies are tender. The base of the soup is now ready.  Shred the chicken with a fork or your fingers. Reserve.

When it’s time to enjoy the soup, cook some noodles (or zoodles) in boiling salted water.  Re-warm the soup by mixing the soup base, the reserved chicken meat, and any reserved stock until the consistency is the way you like. Squirt fresh lemon juice, adjust seasoning if needed with salt and pepper. Place some cooked noodles in your serving bowl, ladle the soup over, and…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I got the inspiration for this soup from a couple of sources. For instance, the use of kombu in the chicken stock came from the book The Longevity Kitchen. It is an interesting ingredient, one that I advise you to use just like you would fish sauce. Don’t sniff it. Big turn off. But it does a great job, not only nutritionally speaking, but in terms of flavor. The stock made with chicken wings has been my method of choice for years now, after a basic recipe found in one of my favorite cookbooks  Simple to Spectacular. I pumped it up by using the pressure cooker, and it does a great job extracting all flavors and goodies from the wings. In the composite photo you can see the color of the stock (upper left), no photoshopping was involved.

You will notice that I used the pressure cooker three times in a row, but you can do it all in a regular pan. Make sure to allow the wings to simmer for one full hour at least, and the chicken thighs until very tender. I’ve seen recipes recommending a 10 minute simmer, and I have no idea what those people are talking about. You would have to pretty much wrestle the meat off the bone with such a quick cooking.

All in all, this was so good that I had to blog right away. Contrary to what normally happens, you are reading on Wednesday a recipe we enjoyed only three days earlier. Also contrary to my principles, with this post I line two articles in a row involving chicken. Oh, well. That shows you how much I enjoyed this recipe, I simply could not wait to share.  I hope you’ll give it a try if you are headed to winter where you live, or if someone is feeling lousy with a cold. Heck, try it if you simply love chicken noodle soup. No other reason needed!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Orange Mini-Cakes and a Bonus Recipe

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FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday: Heirloom Tomatoes Steal the Show

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SEVEN YEARS AGO: Golspie Loaf, from the Scottish Highlands